English: Slow motion wave
English: Slow motion wave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gold open access (OA) journals appear to be proliferating, generating a virtual tidal wave of new titles. This is the upshot of a small research project I recently completed. Additional information and comment will be appreciated.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists just over 8,000 gold OA journals, with more than 1,000 having been added in just the last 12 months, and more than 1,000 in the year before that. Moreover, DOAJ search results for some major publishers list far fewer journals than the publishers themselves list. DOAJ admits they have a huge backlog of unlisted journals. This is probably due to the flood of new gold OA journals.

Note however that most gold OA journals are quite small. So even though there are many of them, the number of articles they publish collectively appears to be a relatively small fraction of all the articles published in their respective fields. How this is changing over time is not presently known, as good data are hard to find in this rapidly evolving situation. But it certainly looks like an emerging new market for scientific communication, giving researchers many new outlets and choices.

The field consists of a relatively few very large publishers, plus a great many publishers of just one or a few journals. The latter are often scholarly societies or universities. Large publishers may have from 100-400 journals each. Some of the large and medium-sized publishers are listed below. It’s clear from their home pages that these journals a looking for search outlets. Many list the sources that index them. It is a selling point for them, since they are selling to authors.

Note too that a significant fraction of the journals listed by DOAJ are not in the areas of science, technology, and medicine (STM). Many are in the humanities, education, and business, to name a few. Perhaps 4,000 are in the STM domains, and here many are in medicine, the social sciences, and agriculture. There appear to be on the order of 2,000 journals in the physical, mathematical, and computational sciences.

An incomplete list of major and intermediate gold OA publishers follows, in no particular order except biggies first. Of some interest is the fact that many are in developing countries.

  1. Hindawi Publishing Corporation (Egypt). Hindawi says it is a rapidly growing academic publisher with more than 300 Open Access journals covering a wide range of academic disciplines. See also the International Scholarly Research Network below, with about 125 additional journals. ISRN says it is a division of Hindawi but its journals are not included in Hindawi’s list of 300+ titles. Together Hindawi therefore seems to have over 400 journals.
  2. Scientific Research Publishing (USA). SCIRP says it currently has more than 200 open access journals in the areas of science, technology and medicine.
  3. Bentham Science Publishers (Netherlands). Bentham Open says they publish over 230 plus peer-reviewed open access journals, covering all major disciplines of science, technology, medicine and social sciences.
  4. BioMed Central (UK). BioMed Central says they publish 243 peer-reviewed open access journals. All appear to be biology or medical related, with some chemistry. It was acquired by Springer in 2008.
  5. International Scholarly Research Network (Egypt). ISRN publishes about125 OA journals, many in medicine but also in math and the physical sciences. ISRN says it is a division of Hindawi but its journals are not included in Hindawi’s list of 300+ titles.
  6. Academic Journals (Nigeria). They list over 100 journals.
  7. Springer Open (Germany). They list about 100 journals. Springer is a major subscription publisher as well.
  8. Bioinfo Publications (India). They say they have more than 300 OA journals.
  9. Scientific and Academic Publishing (USA). They list over 200 journals, many in technology.
  10. Versita Open (Poland). They say they have over 200 journals, many of which are published for scholarly societies and universities.
  11. The Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (Switzerland). MDPI says they publish over 70 journals.
  12. Copernicus Publications (Germany). Copernicus lists 29 OA journals, mostly related to earth science.
  13. SCIENCEDOMAIN International (India). SDI lists 26 journals.
  14. World Academic Publishing (Hong Kong). They list 27 journals.
  15. Asian Network for Scientific Information (Pakistan). They list 36 journals.
  16. Science Publications (USA). They list 28 journals.
  17. EDP Sciences (France). They list 17 open access journals, along with many subscription journals.
  18. Canadian Center of Science and Education (Canada). They list 45 OA journals.
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38 Thoughts on "The New Wave of Gold OA Journals"

I have a list of more than 300 sources. Amongst them a Russian list with more than 1000 title an Ukrainian list with more than 1500 titles, Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek with more
than 30.000 titles. Scielo more than 900,, J-Stage more than 500 Japanese, Dialnet more than 1000,
AWOL more than 1200. My own list on Scribd, nearly 17.000

DOAJ is just showing a small part of all existing free e-journals. Not more than about 15-20%.


Fascinating, Jan, and very useful. Do you have any idea what the growth rates look like, as opposed to the totals?

It might be better to use the OASPA list of publishers as not all of these are members so one couldn’t vouch for their standards?

The OASPA members list does not show numbers of OA journals and some members publish very few. Does OASPA have that data somewhere? As for standards, that is an important question, but they were not part of this small study. For example, DOAJ just requires what it calls editorial control, not necessarily peer review.

Where’s PLoS?

Admittedly the number of separate titles they publish is slightly fewer, but the large article volume going through PLoS ONE merits its inclusion on that list.

You have intermixed well known predatory publishers on that list. I think it would be useful to separately list them apart from genuine, useful gold open access publishers lest they be confused.

I did not include the mega journal publishers because I have no systematic data on article counts, so I could not identify them. The study focused on journal counts. If there is a source of article count data I would love to see it. DOAJ provides very little in the way of statistical analytical capability.

As for standards I just used DOAJ’s by default. Are there lists of predatory OA publishers somewhere? I don’t really know what that means, what the standards for inclusion might be.

Just an FYI, It’s a little hard to find the page but the DOAJ allows you to download their data in a variety of formats. I don’t have the page with all the formats handy but the CSV format that easily goes into a spreadsheet can be downloaded from: http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=csv

They have a lot of useful data including ISSN that allows you to hook their data to other data about journals. There is also a field as to whether the journals charge article processing fee.

You have to be a little careful because the data is all self-report by the publishers. In my experience seems to be in general reasonably accurate.

Very useful, David. I believe you are an expert in this area. Anything of yours we should look at? Do you see a lot of growth?

Thank you David. As someone below noted, I think Bo-Christer Bjork and his colleagues at Hanken School of Economics have done the best research in this area. Gold OA is clearly growing very fast but still makes up only about 8% or 9% of the scientific literature. Whether OA journal/articles will continue to grow at this pace is anyone’s guess. As many have noted there are some really poor quality OA publishers/journals. However there are many very good OA journals published by reputable publishers. Around 8% of the journals and articles in both the Journal Citation Reports and Scopus are gold OA and apparently meet their quality standards.

Thanks Adam, I will look at this with great interest. It is legendary that a gold rush attracts questionable characters and predatory practices, some of which become quite successful. It appears that the Gold gold rush is on.

My first look at Beall’s list is not promising. I see no links from publishers to their critical reviews. Local search brings up a bunch of blog articles which may mention the publisher. There is no system here. The mini reviews I looked at had little substance. They seemed to say merely that the publisher did not look like an established publishing house, but so what? There is clearly a flood of venture startups in gold OA, but competition per se is not unethical. Perhaps predatory just means competitive. I will look more deeply as time permits, maybe even do a Kitchen article on this list.

Thanks Bill, I will look into it. I have decided to put some time into this project.

The closer I look at Beall the stranger he seems. I see nothing to justify the term predatory, there being no prey. If anything he comes across as anti-gold OA, protesting the changes that are bound to come with it. I will write this up for discussion.

I was horrified to see the huge number of publishers here also listed in “Beall’s List” of probable, potential, and possible predatory publishers. I didn’t know that the new definition of an academic journal was “editorial control” as opposed to peer review. That definition could also fit a magazine or newsletter. What do others think?

This is something you might want to take up with the DOAJ people. Do you have a link to Beall’s list?

Bill Walters and Anne Linvill did a very careful analysis of journals listed in the DOAJ. Their analysis was done in 2009 so there are obviously more titles today; however, their main conclusions seem to hold:

Walters WH, Linvill A. 2011. Characteristics of Open Access Journals in Six Subject Areas. College & Research Libraries 72: 372-92. http://crl.acrl.org/content/72/4/372.full.pdf+html

Abstract: We examine the characteristics of 663 Open Access (OA) journals in biology, computer science, economics, history, medicine, and psychology, then compare the OA journals with impact factors to comparable subscription journals. There is great variation in the size of OA journals; the largest publishes more than 2,700 articles per year, but half publish 25 or fewer. While just 29 percent of OA journals charge publication fees, those journals represent 50 percent of the articles in our study. OA journals in the fields of biology and medicine are larger than the others, more likely to charge fees, and more likely to have a high citation impact. Overall, the OA journal landscape is greatly influenced by a few key publishers and journals.

Thanks Phil, their conclusions sound right to me, except the mega OA journals may have skewed the distribution a bit. To me the lack of data is the most interesting thing, but the fog of revolution is like that.

The best study of OA growth is Mikael Laakso, Patrik Welling, Helena Bukvova, Linus Nyman, Bo-Christer Bjork, and Turid Hedlund, “The Development of Open Access Journal Publishing from 1993 to 2009,” PLoS ONE 6 (2011): e20961, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020961, available at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020961

I used this work as the basis for my projection that Gold OA will shortly become the dominate business model for scholarly journal publishing. See: Lewis, David W. “The Inevitability of Open Access.” College & Research Libraries 73(5):493-506 September 2012. Available at: http://crl.acrl.org/content/73/5/493.full.pdf+html and http://hdl.handle.net/1805/2929

Dean Lewis, your conclusion is certainly bold: “This analysis suggests that Gold OA could account for 50 percent of the scholarly journal articles sometime between 2017 and 2021, and 90 percent of articles as soon as 2020 and more conservatively by 2025.”

I tend to believe in the unpredictability of revolutions but will look at this closely. Nice timing.

Dean Lewis, my problem with your projection is that we may well be dealing with an S-curve, not a saturation. My team was the first to look at emerging scientific field using a disease model, where an S-curve is the norm, although as I recall Price noted the S-curve structure of field growth in the 1950’s or so. See http://www.osti.gov/innovation/research/diffusion/index and references. Gold OA growth may well exhibit the same structure.

The problem with the S-curve is that there is generally no way to tell from the first 10% or so of growth where it will top out. I think that is where we are regarding Gold OA. Modeling it as a disruptive technology is an assumption that begs the question, which is whether it is or not?

My projections are based on the work of Clayton Christensen and he argues that you can make predictions even when you are on the flat part of the curve. I have followed his methodology and believe we beginning to see an inflection of the curve for the proportion of scholarly articles than are OA. It is hard to tell without someone updating the Laasko, et. al. study, but the fact that PLoS ONE will likely publish 20,000 articles this year and with eLife and PeerJ coming soon, I am not nervous about the boldness of my predictions.

I cannot say that your projections are wrong, David, just that I see little reason to believe them to be right, at this time. It is a matter of decision making under uncertainty. The problem of forecasting technological revolutions, which I have studied for forty years, is that in addition to true breakthroughs there are many false starts, plus fads and investment bubbles, and both of the latter are clearly present in the gold OA case. But I will look at Christensen’s work.

It seems to me that anyone with a cool $1,500 in their pocket can publish an article on Curing Cancer with Carrots.


Which reputable academic will bother to read, cite or use such an article published in Curing Cancer with Carrots?

[subtext: the existence of ‘Curing Cancer with Carrots’ and other scam journals/websites is not a problem in my opinion]

The problem isn’t with reputable academics, but with the public, who would have unencumbered access to such articles, and implicit trust because they’re in things touting themselves as peer-reviewed journals, but ultimately they are being mislead.

Unfortunately, journal titles do not bibliographically include the name of the publisher, as books do. Hence “Cure Cancer with Carrots,” published by the “Journal of Cancer Research” based in Nigeria
might get cited as a reputable, scientific source by those in the blogosphere or popular press who think that anything beginning with “Journal of…” can’t be off-base.

Harvey, I do not find an OA journal titled “Curing Cancer with Carrots.” Do you have the URL? Google certainly finds a lot on Curing Cancer with Carrots, but that is a different issue.

Thank you for your article.This is a good start. Just to clarify: Versita is an open access branch of traditional academic publisher De Gruyter. We publish both societies journals as well as our own offering. Currently our journal list covers more than 300 titles. Peer review and quality are at the forefront of the company’s strategic policy – we have been building our reputation long enough to appreciate the selected contents only. Some of our journals have rejection rate of over 90%. And this approach (probably not the easiest one) serves us rather well.

My pleasure Maria, as I am second generation Polish American and your listings are impressive. You might want to change your homepage which says “Versita Open is one of the world’s leading Open Access platforms, hosting full texts of nearly 200 scholarly journals that concurrently belong to many societies, universities and research institutes.”

Perhaps it should say over 300, rather than nearly 200.

Hello David,

As you pointed out, this is just about OA titles, and there are many titles that are Hybrid OA too. To track growth in hybrid OA articles, we need publishers to use an OA tag in article level metadata records and to enable us to filter searches by OA or not. In addition to hybrid, there are also plenty of green OA deposits although those are also difficult to track because repositories often have metadata records without a full text file.

I note that the Finch report refers to the largest repositories listed on OpenDoar, but these might not be the largest in terms of OA content, they are simply the largest in terms of repository records.

Amongst all this OA proliferation, how much is not only making content accessible to read but also publishing with a CC-BY licence to enable re-use? I ask because in the wake of the RCUK policy this seems to be increasingly important, and I take that as a sign of maturity of the OA model as much as the growth in numbers of titles or articles. We have moved on from debate about simply making content readable for free and now we are talking about re-use.

However we try to measure OA, I believe that the biggest issue we have (at present) is the lack of data!

I agree Jenny, and have found the same problems, including OA repositories without articles, or even with metadata links to subscription purchase pages! Hybrids are another mystery. We are flying blindly into the fog of revolution.

I have no idea what a “gold” OA journal is. Please advise, thank you.

Gold OA means the author (or their backer) pays a fee to have their article published. The articles are freely accessible immediately. This contrasts with green OA, where a subscription journal makes articles freely accessible after a period of time, called the embargo period. Gold OA might also include journals that charge no fee or subscription and make articles immediately available.

Thank you. I had never heard of OA referred to as Gold OA before, so I appreciate the clarification.

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